Hyperconverged System vs Flash Storage: Which Option Is Right For You?

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    So you’re looking for a new storage system and feel pretty overwhelmed with options. We can help clear up the confusion. In this article, we’ll be looking at two kinds of systems: a hyperconverged system and flash storage. 

    These two kinds of storage aren’t like for like comparisons — a hyperconverged system is an all-in-one solution, while flash storage is only one component of a solution you have to build yourself. The real distinction between these two is that they offer a converged and non-converged approach to storage. One offers you simple scalability and fewer choices, and the other greater optimisation and control. You’ll have to make choices between the two when thinking about your data as these are the available options on the market.

    Ultimately, there are many benefits to choosing a hyperconverged system, such as convenience, scalability and lower costs. But this solution might not suit your business needs. Another option is to use a combination of hyperconverged and flash storage (but we’ll get to that!). For now, let’s look more closely at what both solutions do and whether they suit your needs. 

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    Defining the terms

    A hyperconverged system

    The term hyperconvergence can get confusing. Here, we’re specifically talking about the all-in-one solution that a hyperconverged system can provide. To put it simply, hyperconverged systems are servers, switches and storage all in one box that you can run your apps on. 

    A hyperconverged solution uses flash storage, but it’s already set up to be compatible with your servers and switches in the form of nodes. If you want to scale, you can’t scale nodes individually, they must be scaled together. Check out our blog on this solution to learn more about what hyperconvergence is

    A flash storage system

    This is a non-converged data management solution, which offers more customisability but it can get complicated if you don’t know how to build out your own solution. As opposed to a hyperconverged system that provides all three components of your storage solution for you, all-flash arrays are just one part of your system — you need to build out the servers and switches alongside the storage. This delivers more flexibility as you can add additional storage without having to scale up your servers and switches alongside it. 

     

    The benefits of a hyperconverged system

    There are many benefits to a hyperconverged system if you implement it the right way. It can remove the complexity of creating a storage infrastructure and save you time. 

    Convenience and ease of deployment

    One of the biggest benefits of a hyperconverged system is that it’s incredibly convenient. It’s a solution that provides all parts of your infrastructure for you, meaning it also allows for guaranteed compatibility with other parts of the HCI system too. 

    Scalability

    Unlike a traditional data centre which involves switches, servers and storage being scaled separately, each HCI appliance is a self-contained unit that provides everything you need in one solution. This makes it much easier to scale up your whole system with additional nodes, rather than buying more individual storage components that need to be configured and deployed to be compatible with the rest of your system. 

    Resilience and recovery

    When deployed correctly alongside the right software-defined-storage (SDS) — more on this later — a hyperconverged system can be more resilient. This is because of the storage nodes — they act as individual, reliable pools of storage, so if one node goes down, the others aren’t affected. This means if there is ever a threat or issue, your whole storage system won’t go down and you can ensure business continuity. 

    This also means it’s easy to restore data. With a rise in cybersecurity issues, disaster recovery is more crucial than ever. Because HCI is an all-in-one-box solution, it can provide disaster recovery and backup solutions, making data recovery easy and quick. 

    Cost-effective

    Hyperconvergence is also a cost-effective solution, as it requires less equipment to purchase and maintain. This means the recurring costs of this infrastructure can be much lower, if you choose the right one for your business. 

     

    The benefits of flash storage

    It’s pretty clear HCI has many benefits. So, why would you choose flash storage? 

    Flexibility

    The flexibility of a non-converged approach enables you to buy the fastest components on the market, optimising them for speed — or whatever task is at hand. You can essentially customise your storage solution based on your needs. For example, if you want to prioritise cost, you can buy relatively cheap hybrid flash storage — such as Netapp and Nimble — that can be optimised using the right software-defined storage. 

    Optimised growth 

    Because it’s only one component of your overall infrastructure, it means you have the means to customise it how you want. If all you need is more storage, you can buy that individually without having to buy server capacity as well. Your scaling can be achieved on a piece-by-piece basis. For instance, you can scale storage capacity without over-provisioning server capacity because you can mix and match components of your solution depending on your needs. 

    However, it’s important to remember that when scaling up piece-by-piece, there is a trade off with more complicated growth, as it could create compatibility concerns. 

     

    What’s the catch? 

    No matter what solution you choose — an all-in-one vs build-it-yourself — if it doesn’t meet your business’ individual needs, you won’t see the benefits of either. Essentially, it’s down to implementing a solution that hits all your tick boxes and performs with minimal problems. 

    The catch with flash storage 

    As we’ve mentioned, flash storage can get complicated. Buying storage separately can be great if that’s all you need, but you need to know how to deploy and configure it in line with the rest of your system. It can get complicated very quickly and cause compatibility issues. If you do want to build out a flash storage solution that works within a 3-tier architecture, Nexstor can help — get in touch or use our SAN builder tool to find out more. 

    The catch with a hyperconverged system

    We’ve sung HCI’s praises, but investing in HCI doesn’t automatically deliver a unified and optimised outcome — it just means that scaling that HCI part of your infrastructure will be easy. As mentioned, a hyperconverged system can be simple and convenient, but it needs to be deployed correctly in order to ensure it doesn’t become its own silo. If you aren’t fully committing to a single HCI solution, you still need to think about compatibility and how your whole system works together.

    This is where SDS comes in. Companies like Nimble, NetApp and EMC provide their software services independently of hardware purchases, and there is a move across the industry to accommodate a multitude of hardware choices under a single command and control system. In a way, all the moves to unify hardware have accompanied software changes that make it easier than ever to mix and match like the traditional legacy approach.

    While this isn’t necessarily the catch with HCI, it’s worth noting that there are two main variations of the kind of hyperconverged system you can get: one includes a pre-manufactured solution tailored to different parts of the market, while the other allows you to build your own system more flexibly. Companies like SimpliVity (HPE), Scale Computing and Nutanix provide the former, while StoreVirtual (also HPE) and VMware’s vSAN offer the latter. Find out more about the various options available in our article — hyperconvergence and the future of the data centre.

    The brands that provide flexible solutions make it possible to scale servers and storage more flexibly, which removes or minimises the problem of over-provisioning. Typically, off-the-shelf is never as effective as bespoke. A flexible solution would be preferred, especially if you’re looking to future-proof your solution.

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    The ultimate solution

    Not only is future-proofing your solution important, but you also need to ensure it operates as a single system. SDS can help deliver this, instead of ending up with some HCI storage and some flash storage that doesn’t work in tandem. 

    The best solution is one that is tailored to your specific needs. Likely, that will pull on components of HCI and flash — and use SDS to centralise access and control to create a hardware agnostic storage solution. Getting the administration right with your hyperconverged system is critical to make it convenient and ensure it doesn’t become a silo. 

    After all, the data centre is changing and businesses need to ensure they’re choosing the right solution, whether that’s hyperconverged, non-converged, or a bit of both that is brought together with SDS. If you need help finding the right data storage solution for your business, Nexstor can help. Contact us today — we can help you make the right choice and then put that solution into action.

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    Troy Platts

    Troy has spent over 20 years helping organisations solve their data, storage and compute conundrums. He is a regular speaker at vendor events and spends any free time he has keeping abreast of advances in data platform technologies. He also makes a mean curry.

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